Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 3
Purpose of the Handbook
This Handbook is made to provide simple information to house owners,
to house designers and builders, and building monitors to teach
principles of good design and good construction in natural hazard
prone areas. Thoroughly studied, they will also guide on whether to
repair or rebuild damaged houses. The descriptions are followed by a
code of minimum standards for construction of houses to ensure
quality and a sustainable building.
Since many concepts are not easy to describe, the Handbook contains
pictures of good practice and common bad practice to facilitate
understanding and to indicate how to build better. The photographs
have been taken of construction practices in the Philippines. The
Philippines are generally hazard prone to the whole range of natural
hazards, like earthquakes, landslides and flooding due to storms and
sudden downpours of rain, volcanic eruption. The principles of this
book are designed to minimize vulnerability to natural hazards, so that
houses will safeguard occupants and their assets.
In an area that is prone to earthquakes and other significant natural
hazards, not only principles of design are important, but also
principles of construction, since the best designed house which has
been well covered and painted, may hide serious structural defects in
the construction. These defects may lead to serious injury and death,
and loss of property when the forces of nature strike the house.
Another important element in sustainable housing is spatial planning,
building houses in places that are less vulnerable, like away from river
beds and sea shores and steep cliffs. Where houses have to be built in
these locations, design must incorporate resistance to locally
Let us develop a culture of safety in all our buildings, not just doing
the minimum and the cheapest, but building houses that will
safeguard families and assets in times of emergency.
Robin D Willison
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 4
Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP
Good Building Design and Construction: the Experience of the
Philippines is the second in a series of publications dealing with
the same topic. The first one was based from the experience in
Aceh and Nias, Sumatra, Indonesia during the rehabilitation and
reconstruction process from the destruction wrought by the
tsunami of December 2004. Here, we focus on the experience of
the Philippines in the course of rebuilding and recovering from the
devastation caused by severe flooding and landslides in the past
As recent events have continued to confirm, disasters upset and
negate hard-won development gains. Disaster risks are increasing
and, as awareness grows, these risks have become a major cause
for concern worldwide. The fact that disasters are often the results
of multiple, interrelated causes, means that societies have
difficulties in addressing this global issue. As a result, disasters
can have enormous, far-reaching consequences, impacting the
survival, livelihoods and dignity of communities, particularly the
poor and the deprived, which are located mostly in developing
A wealth of experience and capacity in disaster-risk reduction
exists all over the world and needs to be shared with others. The
Philippines is one source of such knowledge and information.
This publication is a practical guide to the design and construction
of houses during the reconstruction phase in the aftermath of a
disaster as well as during normal times.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 5
The Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (SU/SSC) supports
the sharing of knowledge, expertise and lessons learned
concerning the enhancement of growth and development as well
as the management of disasters that derail development efforts. In
particular, we emphasize South-to-South exchanges and strategic
partnerships to address the risk of vulnerability of poor and
developing countries, which often are the most affected by
disasters and the adverse effects of climate change. In 2005 at the
United Nations High-level Committee on South-South
Cooperation, delegates from the Asia and Pacific region requested
SU/SSC to support developing countries that are vulnerable to
disasters, especially the small island developing States. For this
reason, SU/SSC has been working to support the implementation
of the Hyogo Framework of Action through collaboration with the
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) and with
other organizations through the development and publication of
knowledge products on disaster reduction and management.
We in the Special Unit are proud to have a role in this publication
along with ISDR and the German Agency for Technical
Cooperation (GTZ). The importance of safe shelter cannot be
overemphasized. Hence, commitment to quality design and
construction should be one of the prerequisites in reconstruction
efforts. The children are the hope and future of the world and it is
unthinkable for them to continue to live and learn in unsafe,
poorly built houses and schools. The past tragedies hold lessons
from which we can all learn and it is our hope that this publication
will help us to build better, safer places in pre- as well as post-
Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 6
United Nations Secretariat of the International
Strategy for Disaster Reduction
Climate change, environmental degradation, and unchecked urban
growth, are increasing the severity and frequency of disasters.
This is a growing threat to lives and livelihoods, and a serious
challenge for socioeconomic development in many countries.
Against the backdrop of these global trends, the secretariat of the
International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) seeks to
strengthen the exchange of concrete experience and knowledge of
community-based risk reduction. Practical, simple steps like this
publication, which shares clear, useful examples on how to
decrease disaster risk at the grassroots, are vital to strengthening
the disaster resilience of not only houses, but entire communities
The Philippines is regularly exposed to climate-related hazards
such as intensifying typhoons and floods, as well as seismic and
volcanic events that have affected whole regions of the country.
In 2006 the Philippines experienced a devastating typhoon season
which damaged and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes,
and affected eight million people. However, the experiences of
the Philippines, as a disaster-prone country, can serve not just as a
warning of the damage that is done by vulnerability to hazards,
but as a showcase of the opportunities for integrating disaster risk
reduction into the recovery process.
This handbook on ‘Good Building Design and Construction in the
Philippines’ does exactly that, capturing the potential of increased
resilience through good construction. The UN/ISDR secretariat is
supporting the development and distribution of tools like this
handbook, as a part of its mandate for coordinating the
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 7
implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action. In 2005,
just after the Indian Ocean Tsunami, 168 governments adopted the
Hyogo Framework for Action, in an acknowledgement of the need
to build back better, to increase disaster resilience by
mainstreaming disaster risk reduction into development, and to
avoid the recreation of past mistakes.
At the international level, UN/ISDR secretariat, in partnership
with the UNDP, ILO, World Bank, and the governments of Italy,
Japan and Switzerland, have established the International
Recovery Platform, which provides guidance for building back
better from disasters. At the community level, UN/ISDR
secretariat is also actively engaged in supporting partners,
particularly NGOs and local authorities, in reconstruction
processes, to ensure the integration of risk reduction into the
rebuilding of houses, schools, and health facilities.
Complementing our work, this handbook explains basic but vital
principles of design and construction that can withstand natural
hazards, in clear, easy to understand language, and with
photographic examples of good and bad practices. For
communities that are building back from disaster, or committed to
building resilience in these times of increasing disaster risk, this
handbook should be the one of the first tools out of the box. To
make this happen, the handbook, and tools like it, should be
widely translated and made available to UN country offices, and
national and local governments to learn from, in order to make
disaster recovery efforts more effective and sustainable.
Director, United Nations Secretariat of the International Strategy for
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 8
German Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
Country Director for the Philippines and the Pacific
Some areas of the world are especially exposed to natural
hazards. One such location is the Philippines as part of the
Pacific “Ring of Fire” and a major recipient of tropical
storms hitting the country from the Pacific Ocean. The
vulnerability of the country was demonstrated repeatedly
by volcano eruptions like that of the Pinatubo in 1991, the
flashflood in Ormoc the same year, many land- and
mudslides in the western part of the country and the big
earthquake in Baguio (magnitude 7.7) in 1990. Thousands
died or were injured due, in part, to limited understanding
of prevention, mitigation and preparedness for disasters.
Had people known more about risk reduction, large
numbers of injuries, death and damage to assets could
have been avoided.
The importance of analyzing hazards carefully and
integrating measures to reduce their impact in land use
planning and in building codes cannot be overemphasized.
Taking the risks of landslides, floods and tsunamis into
account, spatial planning of human settlements, both,
residential and commercial, is the key to taking people out
of harm’s way. In some cases resettlement might be the
only option for homes in extreme hazard areas. It is simply
not acceptable to continue living under the constant
threat of a major disaster.
Shelter is a basic human need. A house protects from the
climate and animals, and it also has a socio-cultural role
as the centre of the family life and as a manifestation of
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 9
self-identity. A well designed and built house is a house
that supports the lifestyle of the dweller, and a well-
constructed house protects the lives of the residents.
Many of the existing houses in the Philippines are still not
safe enough to withstand the recurring forces of nature
and GTZ is pleased to publish this Handbook as an aid to
assist local communities to design and build stronger
houses in safe locations. This will help them to withstand
extreme weather and geological events. It is written with
the aim of making technical information simple and
understandable for those who build so many of the homes:
the homeowners themselves.
Country Director for the Philippines and the Pacific
German Technical Cooperation (GTZ)
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 10
Mr. Robin Willison, Disaster Risk Reduction Consultant and a
Civil Engineer, researched and wrote the text and took the
photographs for this Handbook, developed through experience
in recovery from tragedy caused by impacts of hazards from
nature in Indonesia and the Philippines.
The development and publishing of this Handbook to promote
better practice in building houses in the Philippines was the
initiative of the Environment and Rural Development program of
GTZ, supported by UNISDR and the Special Unit for South-South
Cooperation of UNDP. Mr. Olaf Neussner, disaster risk
consultant to GTZ provided support for assessing the building
culture in Leyte and Samar and study of the effect of local
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 11
Purpose of the Handbook 3
Design Principles 12
1. Foundations 13
2. The building needs a coherent structure 17
3. Joining walls to roof structure 26
4. Tying walls to building structure 32
5. Roof truss ties 38
6. Cross bracing of walls and roof 41
7. Drainage principles 44
8. House elevation and location 45
Construction and Materials Principles 49
1. Foundations 51
2. Sand and gravel 55
3. Mixing concrete 61
4. Making columns 62
5. Reinforcement 66
6. Roofing 68
7. Tying walls to structure 72
8. Wells, septic tanks, plumbing 75
Code of minimum standards for house building 77
House Building Checklist 82
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 12
To meet the cultural, social, and physical requirements of
the residents, and to provide a safe dwelling to shelter
them from the hazards that may impact from their
environment, a house must be properly designed. In order
that the house provides for all the family needs, and keeps
them and their loved ones and belongings safe, the
following aspects of a house or a structure must be
considered in the design:
A safe house must be based on a strong foundation and
therefore this must be given primary attention. Problems
with foundations not properly designed lead to unequal
settlement, cracking of walls and floor, and structural
weakness. To resist outside forces, a house needs a
coherent and simple structure.
House structure is like the skeleton to the body. If it is
strong, it protects the whole house. Walls must be joined
to the roof. Walls and roof can strengthen each other if
joined properly. Walls also must be joined to the building
structure. Walls should be supported by the columns, and
need to be connected to them. Roof trusses must be
flexible but strong enough to enhance safety. Walls and
roof need bracing to resist lateral movement.
Drainage plans are essential to good house design. The
design should carefully consider whether the house needs
to be elevated to safeguard it and its contents from
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 13
A safe house must have a strong foundation.
The ground under the building has to
bear the weight of a house. If it is a
weak soil, the foundations must be made
stronger. If the house has more than one
floor the foundation must also be made
stronger. Foundations are best when
continuous under the house.
Is the building built on sand, rock, clay?
Design foundations appropriately.
• Soil for a good foundation that can carry
the weight of a house must be well
drained so that it is dry and not
• Waterlogged soil can become liquefied in
an earthquake—turn to a semi-liquid--so
that structures sink into the ground.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 14
Example of bad foundations. This house is being built in
a swampy, waterlogged area. As the foundations and the
foundation trench was dug, it filled with water so the
builders dropped dry sand and cement into it and then the
first row of blocks were located on top of this mixture.
These foundations in permanently wet soil are inadequate
and will also be weak when impacted by any external
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 15
Example of bad location. This house is located on a river
bed, close to running water, where it is very vulnerable to
flooding. Not only the house, but also its contents are
vulnerable to destruction due to heavy rains. Houses
should not be built in such obviously vulnerable locations,
or if they are, they should be designed to resist the
hazards of their location.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 16
Liquefaction. Example of a well built and well structured
house that was not quite finished when a major hazard
struck. The house was structurally good but the
foundations were poor for this location. Due to a major
earthquake the foundations suffered from liquefaction of
the ground, and due to the weight of the house, it
subsided unevenly into the ground.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 17
2. The building needs a coherent structure
If the structure is coherent and strong, it
protects the whole house.
A regular structure
• An integrated structural ring beam
around tops of doors and windows
connected to columns
An integrated structural ring beam
around top of walls connected to
• Triangular gable end walls must be
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 18
This regularly structured building is able to withstand the
impact of hazards. Notice the structure of columns and
floors which are all joined to each other in a regular
format. Overhanging parts of the building are all well
supported by continuous columns to the foundations.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 19
This illustrates good structural design principles for a hollow
block or brick wall building with a reinforced concrete
structure. A complete structural frame around the building is
tied in to the foundation, the walls and the roof structure.
Doors and windows have a beam over them to carry the weight
of the wall above and to strengthen the columns. The top of
the walls is also tied together with the columns, by a second
reinforced concrete ring beam, and end walls are strengthened.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 20
Good Structure. This is a well structured house that
follows all the above design principles. Notice the good
foundation, the good structure framing the building, and
the 2 ring beams connecting all the building elements at
the top of doors and windows and at the top of the walls.
Gable end walls are also strengthened with reinforced
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 21
This is an example of bad structural practice. This house
has no structural columns and no ring beams to hold the
structure together. There are no columns at the corners,
or within the walls, and there are no ring beams at the top
of doors and windows or at the top of the walls. This
building will have little resistance to being destroyed by
any impact from nature, like an earthquake or a storm.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 22
An example of poor structuring of a house. The columns
are very poor, with concrete poured in stages after the
walls were built up, and the concrete has not fully covered
the steel so that the reinforcing will rust. The columns
are too small and the steel is too close together. The
concrete was not tamped to ensure good compaction.
Columns should not be made to fit within the thickness of
the wall because there is not enough room to properly
cover the column reinforcement with concrete. This kind
of column does little to give a house structural strength.
It would have been better to have a proper column at the
end of the wall on the right.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 23
Not good structure. Another example of a house which
has too little structure to brace the walls against lateral
forces. This is a common construction fault with hollow
blocks. Columns are inadequate, too small, and poorly
constructed, and there should be a reinforced column
between the door and the window. The window and the
door have inadequate structural support. When the forces
of nature strike this house, it will progressively deteriorate
and be hard to repair.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 24
Good structural practice. A good pattern of reinforced
concrete columns and beams to strengthen all aspects of
the building including support to strengthen the triangular
gable end wall so that it will not fall when a lateral force
strikes the building. All end walls of this nature need a
reinforced column to strengthen them, or they are liable
to fall when the building is subjected to a major lateral
force. It also has a reinforced concrete beam to top to all
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 25
Connection of wood frame building to concrete
frame/brick stub walls.
It is essential that a wood frame structure mounted on a
concrete frame/brick stub wall must be fully anchored
together. A bracket, as shown above left, made of non-
corrodible metal, must be cast into the bearing structure
to provide a structural connection for the whole wall
through to the foundation. The wood column must be
bolted to the bracket as shown, and the bracket must be
fully secured into the concrete as shown on the right.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 26
3. Joining walls to roof structure
Join walls and roof to strengthen each other.
Column reinforcement should protrude
from the top of concrete columns and be
bent around roof trusses for structural
strength, or roof trusses should be
strapped with metal ties to the wall
Exposed metal should be painted with
rust proof paint to prevent corrosion.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 27
An illustration of binding roof trusses to
building structure. Roof trusses should be constructed
over columns, and for a concrete column the
reinforcement should protrude at the top and be bent over
roof trusses to join the roof structure with the wall
structure. Metal straps or plates can be used for this role,
particularly where the building structure is made of wood.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 28
A good roofing example of column steel reinforcement
bent over roof truss to tie house structure to the roof
structure. This is an essential detail in areas subject to
earthquake and to winds, to keep the roof on the house
when a natural hazard strikes the structure. Such exposed
steel should be painted with rust-proof paint to minimize
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 29
Example of good roofing practice. Steel roof trusses are
connected to columns through welding of truss members
to column reinforcing steel and purlins are welded with
ties to roof trusses. This will hold the roof firmly on the
house in storms or other hazards from nature.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 30
Example of incorrect roofing practice. The roof structure
is good, but no connection is made between roof trusses
and the building structure. The roof is resting on the top
of the house walls and is subject to moving with high
winds or other forces of nature.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 31
4. Tying walls to building structure
Walls tied to columns protect them from
Walls must be tied into the building
structure so that they do not move
separately when the forces of nature
Wall ties should be hooked into the wall
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 32
Good tying practice. An illustration for a wooden frame
building, where metal ties are used to tie wall materials to
the main structure of the building. Steel wall ties are to
be at a maximum of 40cm spacing.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 33
Good tying practice. An illustration for a reinforced
concrete frame building, where metal ties are used to tie
walls to the main building structure. Steel wall ties are to
be at maximum of 40cm spacing and a minimum of 8mm
diameter, and bent at the end. They are for all openings in
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 34
A good example of wall ties cast into columns to connect
the walls with the building structure. Ties are to be at
maximum 40cm spacing from bottom to top of the wall.
However, in this illustration they lack hooks at the ends at
this point in construction.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 35
Result of no ties. This is an example of what happens
when walls are not tied to columns. The main part of this
building (2 floors on the left) withstood the forces of
nature striking it, but the one floor extension collapsed.
The columns could not help resist the force of nature on
the walls of this house extension because of the lack of
ties between the walls and the columns. The one floor
part also lacked a strong structure.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 36
Result of lack of ties. Another example of what happens
when the walls are not tied to the columns. The wall panel
on the left is moving away from the column because it has
not been tied into the column.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 37
5. Roof Truss ties
Flexible but strong roof trusses enhance
The joints of wooden roof trusses need
to be bolted together and tied with
metal straps to provide flexibility but
not collapse under the forces of nature.
Metal roof trusses must be welded
together, welded to purlins, and welded
to wall reinforcement for strength.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 38
This illustration shows the metal straps tying together the
different elements of the roof structure at this joint in
roofing, so that they will be held together when affected
by extreme forces of nature. A metal plate may also be
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 39
This illustration shows a strap or plate across the joint at
the apex of the roof structure. This is always good
jointing practice. Notice also that for a wooden roof
structure, wooden blocks should be used for support of
purlins, not a single nail through the purlin into the truss.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 40
Good roofing practice with metal roof trusses, where the
roof is strongly connected to the reinforcing in the wall
columns by welding, and the purlins are welded to the roof
trusses with small brackets to make a strong roof
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 41
6. Cross bracing of walls and roof.
The walls and roof need bracing against
In order to resist lateral forces, walls
and roof structure need cross bracing at
all levels, particularly if it is a wooden
This is a major principle in the
construction of traditional houses.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 42
Example of a cross bracing system for the walls, roof, and
also for the columns under the house for a wooden house
structure. The cross bracing system provides strength
against lateral forces so that the building does not collapse
sideways but is held together. This is a system used in
traditional houses and needs to be continued in modern
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 43
Good Practice. Traditional Batanes houses, which have
stood through many storms and earthquakes, are well
structured and supported, with good corner columns, and
have good arches over doors and windows to bear weight
down their sides. The solid stone wall on a good
foundation provides resistance to lateral movement.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 44
7. Drainage Principles
Drainage plans are essential to good house
A high rainfall area requires a drainage
plan for roof water to a common drain.
Levels of the drainage system need to
be included on plans so that rain water
flows away and does not form puddles
that breed insects around houses.
Drains should be covered or bridged
where necessary to allow access over
them for people and vehicles.
Drains should have a V form at the
bottom to reduce accumulation of
water if levels are incorrect.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 45
8. House elevation and location
Safeguards house and contents from
flooding, landslides, flashfloods.
The house floor should be elevated
above the surrounding ground level, and
extra height is needed in vulnerable
situations such as locations close to a
floodable waterway or a swampy area,
or in a tsunami or wave prone area near
the sea. Extra height is best provided
Houses must be located away from
places subject to landslides where soil
may move down a steep slope, debris
flows where soil gravel and rocks may
be washed rapidly down by heavy
rainfall, and flashfloods.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 46
Good house elevation. This house is being built in a low
lying area vulnerable to flooding. Concrete stilts are being
cast on pad footings to raise the floor level of the house so
that it will not be flooded or subject to dampness.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 47
Guidelines on where to build. These illustrate principles
for locating houses in safer places so that house and
contents will be less likely to suffer disaster.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 48
Where not to build. Examples of places where it is
dangerous to build and where houses may easily be
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 49
Construction and Materials
The design of a building may incorporate all the good
design principles, and yet the way it is constructed
may lead to its failure when the forces of nature are
applied to it. This section explains good construction
methods, and principles for choosing good materials
Even with the best design, poor construction
practices and wrong materials can prevent a house
from protecting its residents. If it is not constructed
properly or if wrong materials are used, the house
may injure or kill people when outside forces impact
In constructing a house the first and foremost
principle is to follow the design and not to cut
corners by reducing design requirements.
Foundations must form a strong base for the house.
The choice of building materials, such as sand and
gravel, affect the strength of the building, and care
must be taken to choose the best materials. Mixing
good clean ingredients with little water makes strong
concrete. Wrong ingredients seriously weaken
concrete. Strong columns provide strength to the
structure. The reinforcement of columns is
important, as it strengthens concrete like bones in
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 50
the body. Use the best in order to keep everything
and everyone safe. A strong roof provides lasting
weather protection. Tying walls to the structure
strengthens the walls from collapse in an emergency.
Wells and septic tanks are essential health
supporting components of a house and therefore
must be planned wisely.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 51
Construction and Materials Principles
Make a strong base for the house to be built
Foundations must be founded on solid
Only broken rock should be used in
foundations, not unbroken rounded river
stone or rounded seashore stone. River
stone can be used if broken.
Sufficient mortar is needed to join stones
used in the foundation into one solid
foundation that will not subside
Reinforcement is needed to connect the
bases of column reinforcing steel in the
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 52
Good material for foundations—broken rock. This
material is of a harder rock, of sufficiently large size so
that rocks will not slip between each other. If it is
properly laid and properly cemented, with column starters
concreted into it, it will make a good foundation.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 53
Poor material for foundations. Rounded river or beach
rocks do not make good foundations unless they are
broken, because they are liable to slip between each
other. They need to be broken to avoid slipping, and they
need to be carefully cemented between each other. Too
many rounded stones, not properly laid and are not
adequately bonded together with cement, give a weak
foundation. The result is often that the floor and walls
will crack as the foundations settle or move unequally.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 54
Good concrete foundations. The foundations of these
houses have been constructed in a dry trench using good
materials, and the first row of blocks was laid while the
concrete was still wet. Starter bars to reinforce the
hollow block walls are inserted while concrete is wet.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 55
Construction and Materials Principles
2. Sand and Gravel
Choice of materials affects strength of the
Coral sand should never be used in any
Coarse sand should be sieved to remove
stones, fine particles and dust.
If the sand comes from a dirty or sea
water source, it must be washed.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 56
Bad example of concrete using coral sand. Example of
the disintegration of concrete due to the use of coral
sand. This concrete is returning to powder. The only
action possible at this point is to dig it out and to start
again, wasting time, money and resources.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 57
Example of good quality sand. This sand is all of about
the same coarse texture and does not have larger stones in
it or a lot of dust. Sand can be tested by lifting up a
handful and letting it fall back to the ground. If a
significant portion of it blows away instead of falling
straight down, it has too much dust and needs to be
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 58
Example of poorly graded sand. This sand is mixed with
larger stones so that it is already a sand/gravel mixture. If
gravel is now added to this mixture, it will not be suitable
for making concrete because there will be too little fine
material in it to bind it together.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 59
Bad practice for materials. Debris should not be allowed
to be mixed with any of the ingredients for making
concrete. Such debris seriously weakens the strength of
concrete. This sand will need to be cleaned before it is
used for mixing into concrete. All plastic, leaves, grass,
roots, shells and other debris must be removed before
using sand or gravel for making concrete. Harmful debris
particularly enters the concrete when it is mixed by hand
on the ground.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 60
Gravel is best made of crushed rock, not of
river rounded stones
Good gravel made of crushed rock, with no larger stones.
Gravel should have maximum size 20mm in order for it to
fit within and around reinforcement and to strengthen
concrete and have few smaller stones.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 61
Construction and Materials Principles
3. Mixing of concrete
Good clean ingredients with limited water
makes strong concrete.
Ensure adequate cement is added.
Mix ingredients well.
Limit water, and use only clean water.
Concrete should stand up when mixed,
not flow away due to excessive water.
Do not use any water that is salty. This
destroys concrete strength.
Use only properly selected, clean
If the sand contains stones, reduce the
amount of gravel added.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 62
Construction and Materials Principles
4. Making columns
Strong columns provide strength to the
All reinforced concrete columns should
be made in one part before walls are
built up. They should not be made in
small steps as walls are built up. They
should contain bars for wall ties and ring
beams when constructed.
Column reinforcement should be 4
vertical bars with hoops holding them
together, spaced at approximately the
same as the width of the column. Bars
should be anchored in the foundation.
End of hoop steel should be bent 135º
into the center of the column.
Column steel must be covered with a
minimum of 2cm of concrete all round.
Do not put pipes down the centre of
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 63
Columns being constructed before walls on a base to raise
the house above surrounding low lying land.
Reinforcement of columns continues from the footings
through the floor to provide structural strength.
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Poor concreting of corner column in a particularly
important area. It will gradually rust and deteriorate even
when covered over with mortar.
The column steel is not properly covered because the steel
cage was wider than the width of the bricks making up the
wall. The result is that the formwork for the concrete was
against the steel, and when concrete was poured, the
steel was not within the column, but on its edge. The
windows have been placed in the walls in a very weak
way. All of this wall is weak and will be subject to
collapse when under stress.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 65
Ends of steel bent at 135º for earthquake resistance.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 66
Construction and Materials Principles
This strengthens concrete like bones in the
Reinforcement steel is best made of
twisted deformed steel bar, or
deformed bar, rather than plain round
bar. Plain round bar is significantly
weaker, and can pull through
surrounding concrete and hence has a
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 67
Structural deformed steel bars round bars
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 68
Construction and Materials Principles
A strong roof provides lasting weather
Roof trusses of wood should be made
with a triangular frame, placed over
columns and tied to them.
Roofing supports for wooden trusses
must be made of a block of wood
rather than just a nail.
Roofing structure should not be joined
near the middle of a span, and not
joined with a 45º cut.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 69
Not good practice. Roof trusses are near but not over
the columns, and column steel is not long enough and
not bent over roof structure to connect between roof
structure and column structure. This is a weak building
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 70
Illustration of wood blocks for securing roof structure.
Do not use a single nail, which is a weak support, and
may corrode and cease its function quickly in the
Philippines climate. Nails through the wood structure
itself also are a weak support.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 71
Bad jointing practice. Roof structure joined near mid
span with a 45º joint. This is a weak joint, not properly
made, and it will gradually give way, leading to a
sagging roof. It will not support workers building or
working on the roof.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 72
Construction and Materials Principles
7. Tying wall to structure
Good connections strengthen the walls.
Wall ties to connect walls with the
building’s structure are to be at regular
intervals of 40cm and extend from the
bottom to the top of the wall.
Wall ties must be cast into reinforced
concrete columns, along with
reinforcement for ring beams.
Wall ties must be bent at the end to
hook into the wall material.
Hollow block walls should be reinforced.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 73
A good example of how to insert wall ties into
columns before they were constructed, so that walls
will be well tied in to the structural columns.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 74
Hollow block walls should have a reinforcing bar every
80cm which is concreted into the blocks throughout the
height of the wall and is inserted into the floor or
foundation when it is cast. It is good practice to fill all
holes in hollow blocks to provide further strengthening to
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 75
Construction and Materials Principles
8. Wells, septic tanks, plumbing
These are essential health-supporting
systems to a house.
A well should not be located closer than
30 meters to the nearest septic tank
(Sphere Standard). If they are located
closer, liquid from the septic tank may
contaminate the well, which may bring
disease to the users of that well.
It is best to have a common water
supply from a tested clean source
rather than individual wells.
In urban areas, a common sewage
system is recommended, and not hard
In rural areas rain water from the roof
should be collected in covered tanks to
provide a source of good household
Bathrooms and toilets need to be well
ventilated and to have a window.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 76
A good example of collecting roof water in tanks for
household use. This water is freely available and is usually
of good quality, if many leaves are not falling on the roof.
A screen at the entrance to the tank will filter out
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 77
Code of Minimum Standards for House Construction
a. Foundations must be designed specifically for the
house in its location, according to:
The size of the house, number of floors, weight of
The foundation ground
The height of the water table
The possibility of liquefaction
b. Each house must have a ground water, household
water, and roof water drainage plan.
c. Foundations are to be made of crushed rock laid on
solid ground, well cemented, with a sloof of reinforced
concrete laid on it that has connections for the house
structure cast into it, brackets for wood structure,
reinforcement for concrete structure.
d. Rounded river or sea stones are not to be used
unbroken for foundations.
2. House Elevation
a. The house floor must be elevated above the
surrounding area, with special consideration for
possible area flooding, either by ground water, sea
storm, or by tsunami.
b. Houses must be located away from places subject to
landslides where soil may move down a steep slope,
debris flows where soil gravel and rocks may be washed
rapidly down by heavy rainfall, and flashfloods.
3. Building Materials
a. Sand. Must be coarse, clean and without stones. It
should not contain dust. It must never be coral sand,
and if it is from the sea shore it must be thoroughly
washed first and contain no shell or coral fragments.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 78
b. Gravel. Must contain broken stones and not plain
rounded river stones. The maximum stone size for
house construction concrete is 2cm.
c. Water. Must be clean and free of salt and algae.
d. Concrete. No vegetable matter is to be mixed into
concrete, no grass, wood, leaves, or roots.
It must be well mixed.
Use a minimum of water. It must be stiff. If the
mixture flows like water, it has too much water.
It must be vibrated or tamped with a round rod to
ensure proper filling of the form and proper cover to
e. Reinforcing steel. Deformed steel or twisted
deformed steel is best for structural use.
4. Structural Columns
a. Must be vertical, and must be constructed before
wall construction, and made in one part.
b. Must be integrally connected to the foundation.
c. If made of reinforced concrete, must contain 4 bars,
one at each corner, of minimum size 12mm and
minimum spacing 12cm.
d. Vertical steel must have hoops around the outside,
of a minimum size of 8mm.
e. Column hoop steel must be covered with a minimum
of 2cm of concrete all round.
f. Hoops must be spaced at no further apart than the
width of the column.
g. To avoid a stone rich mixture at the bottom of the
column, the first mixture should contain a higher
proportion of cement and sand, and less stones.
5. Building Structure
a. The building must have a regular structure.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 79
b. The structure must be strongly connected from
foundation through walls to the roof trusses.
c. For a reinforced concrete structured house, an
integrated ring beam around the top of doors and
windows must connect between and into the columns.
d. A second reinforced concrete beam must connect
the top of all walls with the columns.
e. Ends of hoop steel must be bent 135º, as shown in
f. Triangular gable end walls of houses must be
g. For a wood structure, wood posts must either be
connected directly to the foundation, or if above stub
walls, must be securely bolted to a metal bracket
concreted into stub walls.
6. Tying wall material to structural columns
a. Wall material must be tied to the building structure
with metal ties.
b. Metal wall ties are to be hooked at the end.
c. All wall openings are to be tied to wall material.
d. For reinforced concrete frame buildings with brick
walls, ties are to be cast into columns at 40cm spacing,
and are to be a minimum of 8mm diameter.
7. Joining walls and roof
a. In a reinforced concrete structure, column
reinforcement should protrude sufficiently from the
top of columns to be able to be wrapped around roof
trusses, and nailed to them.
b. For wooden houses, or in the absence of sufficient
protruding steel, a steel strap should tie the roof
trusses securely to columns.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 80
8. Roofing and roof truss joints
a. All houses are to have completely framed pitched
triangular roof trusses.
b. Roof trusses are to be placed over columns and tied
to them, as mentioned in Section 7.
c. Most roof truss joints, and particularly central ones,
are to be bolted, not nailed, as explained in this
d. Roof truss joints of 3 or more elements are to have a
metal strap joining each roof component.
e. Wood blocks are to be used for fixing purlins to roof
f. Joints in roof structural wood are to be made with
step joints, not with 45º cuts.
g. Joints in roof structure are not to be made near the
middle of a span.
9. Cross bracing of walls and roof
a. All wooden parts of a house structure are to be cross
braced, stumps, walls, and roof.
b. Wood roof structures are to be cross braced in both
a. A comprehensive drainage plan must be part of each
house design. This must include drainage of ground
water and household water, as well as of roof water.
b. All drains must have a constant fall towards a
c. Drains must be covered or have bridges for access
across them, where needed.
d. The bottom of drains should have a V formation to
minimize water accumulation due to improper fall or
debris in the drain.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 81
11. Well and septic tank
a. No well is to be constructed closer than 30m from
the nearest septic tank.
b. It is strongly recommended that a common water
supply from a tested clean water source be provided
for a cluster of houses.
c. For clusters of houses, and particularly in urban
areas, a common sewerage system should be provided.
d. In rural areas, rain water from the roof should be
collected in covered tanks for household usage.
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 82
House Building Checklist
House built on: Sand □ Rock □ Clay □
Depth of foundations: Insufficient □ Sufficient □
Shape of stones: Round □ Broken □
Material: River stone □ Sea rock □ Limestone □
Columns were made before walls: Yes □ No □
Column steel was covered with a minimum of 2cm of
concrete all around: Yes □ No □
Wall ties to the columns at 40cm interval: Yes □ No □
Minimum size of column reinforcement steel 12mm:
Yes □ No □
Interval between reinforcement rod ± 12cm: Yes □ No □
Minimum size of stirrup steel 8mm: Yes □ No □
Interval between column stirrups 10-15cm: Yes □ No □
Reinforcement rods sufficiently protruded out from the top
of the column: Yes □ No □
Mortar thickness between bricks / blocks 1cm: Yes □ No □
Bricks were layered neatly: Yes □ No □
Beam on top of door and window frames: Yes □ No □
Minimum size of ring beams reinforcement steel size 12mm:
Yes □ No □
Minimum size of ring beams’ hoops 8mm: Yes □ No □
Interval between ring beams’ hoops 10-15cm: Yes □ No □
Triangular end walls were supported: Yes □ No □
Triangular roof trusses: Yes □ No □
Roof trusses joints were strapped and bolted: Yes □ No □
Roof trusses were placed on the columns: Yes □ No □
Roof trusses were tied to the columns: Yes □ No □
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 83
Woodblocks were used for fixing purlins to the trusses:
Yes □ No □
Cross bracing in between trusses: Yes □ No □
Cross bracing on the roof frame: Yes □ No □
Roof cover: Zinc □ Asbestos □ Roof tile □
4. Door and Window Frames
Wood frames were of dry condition: Yes □ No □
Frames tied to the walls and columns: Yes □ No □
5. Building Materials
Sand from the sea: Yes □ No □
Sand was coarse, no gravel or stone: Yes □ No □
Minimum size of gravel 2cm: Yes □ No □
Concrete mix: Watery □ Quite stiff □
Water quality: Clean □ Dirty/salty □
6. Other Aspects
Site drainage plan: Available □ Unavailable □
Adequate elevation: Yes □ No □
Located close to a floodable waterway, swampy area, or in a
tsunami or wave prone area near the sea: Yes □ No □
Located clear of landslides, debris flows, and flashfloods:
Yes □ No □
Well situated more than 30m from the nearest septic tank:
Yes □ No □
7. Overall assessment of the building:
Good Building Design and Construction Handbook Page 84
Our homes contain the people and things which are
closest to us. Let us ensure that our buildings are
constructed more safely, so that the people inside them,
and their property, will be better protected in the event
of a major hazard impact. Even in more minor hazard
events, the effects can be cumulative. Each one of the
principles in this Handbook will have an added effect in
reducing the vulnerability of the house to collapse when
the forces of nature impact it.
Monitoring house design and construction will enable you
to correct poor practices as they happen so that your
house will better protect your family and belongings in
an emergency. The expense involved in building a
stronger house is little compared to the added security
and protection it gives to you and your family.